Although UNCG has participated in the Southern Regional Model United Nations for more than 15 years, the experience is always unique.
This year 25 students, in majors ranging from political science to psychology, traveled to Atlanta in November to represent the countries of Finland, Uruguay, Jordan and Burkina Faso.
For those not familiar with Model UN, student delegates represent their assigned countries, taking part in simulations of various parts of the United Nations, including the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and UNICEF, among others.
Students must be familiar with their assigned country in all its facets and understand its position on global issues such as climate change, freedom of expression, children's rights, terrorism or small arms trade which are debated during sessions of the simulation. During a series of meetings held over two days, delegates work together to produce working papers that become the basis for draft resolutions.
Model UN is a unique experiential learning opportunity, said Dr. Bob Griffiths, associate professor of political science and faculty advisor for Model UN. It requires students to assume the role of a diplomat from another country and learn to think about important international issues from an unfamiliar standpoint.
Students also sharpen their skills in writing, research, public speaking and negotiation.
For UNCG, Model UN is a one-hour credited class that students can take as many times as they like. One former student, Laura Merrell, participated all four years and continued to participate after graduation. Now a graduate student in global public health at the University of South Florida, she was elected president of the Southern Regional Model UN Board of Directors in November.
Offering MUN as a credit class is a fairly recent thing. Previously, students participated as an extracurricular activity. Now, students earn credit for attending class once a week and meeting informally to prepare for the simulation.
And the preparation can be intense. One month before the conference, each committee delegation must submit a position paper to the director of their committee, which outlines the country's position on topics to be debated.
At the conference, students participate in formal committee sessions and informal caucusing, all the while negotiating with other representatives and drafting resolutions. Competing resolutions are subject to a vote.
You know it's a successful learning experience when they're still talking about it during their breaks, Griffiths said. Anything that gets them that engaged is a worthwhile activity.